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Drumline: A Different Beat

Margaret Hoff, Staff Writer

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We’re the heartbeat of the band, we’re a close-knit group and we’re a heck of a lot different than the rest of band, we’re even rated separately from the rest of the band at competitions. We’re the drumline, and there’s much more to us than there seems.

Most of us have been drumming since middle school, and I personally remember that back then, everyone wanted to be in percussion because it was “cool.” They all wanted to bang on drums and mess around, and really, that’s exactly how it used to be; however, everything has changed since then.

When you’re in high school drumline, you have to have discipline. Sure, we have fun, and sure, we mess around, but when it comes time to play, there is no room for games. There’s much more to being a drummer than most people see.

In this last year, we’ve hit hard on making our drumline better. Over the summer we had the privilege of having a college percussion director critique us, and since then it has influenced us a lot. The new “program,” so to speak, has gotten much more strict, and it is all for the best.

We have now introduced summer practices, as well as a kind of “try-out” system to get into the line. Because of this critiquing, we now all match stick-heights when we drum, as well as have the exact same sticking. Sticking means using the same hands to hit each drum. Basically, we all have to look the exact same and look very uniform. We even have to have our sticks held with a specific grip, no other way. This grip actually matters a lot though. If someone holds their sticks a different way they can sound a lot different, or play faster/slower and throw off the rest of the line.  

There are also different perks of each part of the line. There are quads, snares, and basses in our school line. I, myself, am a quad player, and it can get pretty complicated. I have to match exactly what I am doing to my senior quad, Tyler Girard. When you have more than one drum it can get pretty complicated. We do the same as the other drummers, just add three more drums and more complicated sticking. It’s a lot of fun, but it can be really hard.

Snares do the same thing, but they tend to have more repetitive and fast rock beats, as well as more rimshots and rhythms that keep the band in place. Basses, on the other hand, are super underrated. Everyone thinks that all basses do is play quarter notes but it’s much more than that. This year, we introduced a tonal bass line. This means basically turning the basses into a giant quad, one drum for each player. This can make counting more complicated, but it can make a bass line sound a million times better.

Many colleges even include percussion specific directors, because they can dig much deeper into what drumming really is. Drummers even have their own music that they play alone called cadences. We can even cover pep band for a game with just the line if need be. We even have our own unique step style. Also, unlike the rest of the band when we march, we are always playing. We don’t get a breather when the cadence is playing, and we don’t really have that many rests, even within the music. Now add carrying a drum that can weigh upwards of 35 pounds, and it is continuous work; my quad can end up hurting my back so much that I have to wear a back brace while I play. What other section has their director tell them to ice their backs after every event? Every member of drumline has no doubt that we’ll have massive back issues in the future, and probably hearing problems.

Another change from last year is the new head of drumline. Earlier this year, a senior, Tyler Girard, passed the work of being head of the drumline to Isabella Middleton, a sophomore. She’s been making sure to keep drumline in the right place and keeps us working to improve. I strongly believe she’ll keep us steering in the right direction.

All of these things mentioned are not often brought up when talking about drumline. Most people put us to the side, or just call us “cool,” and never think of the work that goes into everything. Because of this, it’s a really good feeling when all of our hard work shows, like at state this year. Everything we worked on definitely showed there. We brought home a 1, and received the best score the drumline has received in four years. We all hope to continue to see more of this progression in the coming years, as we improve.

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Drumline: A Different Beat